DENVER - State economists have a cautiously optimistic outlook for coming years as Colorado's economy continues to grow with more jobs and more revenue for state coffers.
Lawmakers can expect a surplus in the 2013-2014 fiscal year of somewhere between $120.5 million and $241 million. The estimates vary slightly between those prepared by the Legislative Council Staff and the governor's budget staff, which is a bit more optimistic about how much will come into the state from taxes in future years.
Both ways the budget looks good for next year, and both outlooks project a strong 2014-15 fiscal year as well.
"We are seeing similar things that we've seen in past forecasts and continue to be excited and positive that we see employment increasing in 2014 ahead of this year's growth as well," said Henry Sobanet, director of the Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting. "Another 60,000 jobs is really the underpinning of this revenue forecast."
Even though the state is grappling with flood and fire recovery, there will be a surplus. The governor has recommended the additional tax revenues be used to grow the state's emergency reserve to 6.5 percent - the highest it would be in years - and any remaining funds would go to a state education fund.
The budgets were presented Friday morning to the Joint Budget Committee, a year round committee of three Senators and three Representatives that will use the forecasts to develop a budget - the Long Bill - for 2014-15. The Long Bill will make its way through the General Assembly and will be sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper in April.
The surplus is not expected to trigger a refund to taxpayers required under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) when certain economic conditions are met.
But the numbers are close.
""We do not expect a TABOR surplus," said Natalie Mullis, the legislature's chief economist. "Last year I warned you we were really, really close, almost statistically not different from zero from that line. This year is still a really small forecast error . There is still a very good potential that we could be in a TABOR refund situation very soon, this year even, if the forecast is wrong."
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